It hardly seems a year ago that the nation was getting ready to welcome Pope Benedict to these shores. Few readers of New Directions could have failed to be moved by the scenes that accompanied the visit. Amongst the most moving was when Pope Benedict met young people from around the country outside Westminster Cathedral. Their love for him and his affection and care for them was infectious. These scenes have been repeated this year in Madrid where young people from around the world have gathered for World Youth Day.
Pope Benedict seems to have a deep rapport for young people. He recognizes that they are our future, the future of the Church. The WYD was a great celebration of the faith, to see so many young people praising God is a powerful witness to the wonder of faith and a sign of hope for the future. Similar scenes on a smaller, but no less powerful scale, were witnessed once again this year at the Walsingham Youth Pilgrimage. The sight of hundreds of children kneeling before the Blessed Sacrament in silence is something few present will ever forget. The Church must never lose sight of its work with young people. Christian communities need to seek always to engage with young people and to explore the faith with them.
Following the recent riots across the country it is all too easy to seek to blame young people, or to turn our backs on them. As a Church we need to seek always to engage in areas of difficulty and turmoil as we seek solutions that will benefit the whole community. Jesus was asked ‘who is my neighbour?’ and his answer is clear: our neighbour is the person we least expected it to be. Our faith calls us out to engage with our community, to seek out those in need and to help them. As Pope Benedict reminded the young people in Madrid: ‘Do not keep Christ to yourselves. Share with others the joy of your faith.’ We would all do well to heed his words.
The Church must always seek to speak with joy about the Christian faith and to encourage young people to do the same. It can often take a great deal of bravery for a young person to admit they are a Christian let alone that they go to church. We need to seek always to support them and to see that they are not alone. This is where the Youth Pilgrimage and WYD come in, they are first and foremost an opportunity for young Christians to gather together and to see that they are not alone; hundreds of thousands of young people share their faith. They may feel isolated in their own churches or communities but at larger events they have a tangible experience of what it is to be part of a Universal Church. It is an experience that Christians both young and old must treasure and nurture.
This month will see a time of liturgical change in many parishes up and down the country as the new translation of the Roman Missal comes into use. Whatever rite is used in a particular parish this is an opportunity to look at the liturgy and to explore different ways in which it might reflect the beauty of holiness.
Pope Benedict throughout his ministry has encouraged liturgical excellence through his writing, through his own liturgical actions and by his promotion of the Extraordinary Form of the Mass. In our own parishes we need to seek to worship God with integrity and according to our situation and setting. The new translation of the Missal allows us to look again at the music we use in church as well as the language we use.
The language of the new Missal seeks to focus the worshipper on God and on exploring the mystery of the Mass. By using language perhaps not found in everyday life the worshipper is pointed to the otherness of God and to a deeper understanding of how special worship is.
We need also to remember the continuity of our worship. Next year sees the 350th anniversary of the publication of the 1662 Prayer Book and there will be events across the country.
As we look forward with this new translation of the Missal and new texts being produced in Common Worship, we need also to look back at our Anglican heritage and see how it has shaped the worship of churches around the world in our present day.
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